Ninety-six per cent of single parents call for protection under the Equality Act

Single father with young daughter in urban street with trees
10 March, 2021


A new report from Single Parent Rights has revealed that 96% of single parents want being a single parent added as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act, reflecting the discrimination they face in society. The research included responses from over 1,000 people parenting alone.

80% of single parents have experienced discrimination, and the report contains testimonies from many solo parents on the stereotypes and labels associated with one-parent families; for example, ‘the benefit mum view’, ‘a chav, a scrounger’, ‘lazy’, and ‘that we are sponges on society’. Single dads faced assumptions that men were not ‘the resident parent’ (primary custody holder), and labelled ‘part-time parents’.

Forms of discrimination included social exclusion, difficulty accessing housing, difficulty accessing financial support, the tax and benefits system, and negative perceptions in job applications or a lack of flexible working from employers. Some of the discrimination came from professionals who had met one-parent families as part of their job, such as teachers and healthcare workers. COVID-19 also increased discrimination, particularly around issues of furlough and childcare.

Intersectional discrimination – where someone is discriminated against for more than one protected trait or characteristic – was also explored in the report. This included single parents who experienced racism, those with disabilities, and those who are younger.

The report describes the impact of discrimination on children in one-parent families, as well as the impact on the parents themselves. Some people who were not single parents also took part in the research, and shared their support for those parenting alone.

Suggested actions to increase visibility and support for single parents went beyond inclusion in the Equality Act, with recommendations including:

  • Training for professionals working with children and families to understand one-parent families.
  • Offer single parent rates for products, services and fees (rather than just family rates or offers).
  • Make flexible working the default for all jobs.
  • Have appropriate, flexible and cost-effective childcare available to single parents.
  • Prioritise children in one-parent families for places in schools during COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • Guarantee social bubbles for single parents in future lockdowns or COVID-19 restrictions.

If you are a single parent in Bristol and you need support, there are many local and national organisations that can help. These include:

  • Wellspring Settlement, which has a range of services for parents, including workshops and one-to-one support.
  • Bristol City Council, which has local Families in Focus Parenting Teams, and offers parenting courses, including one designed for parents before, during and after separation or divorce.
  • The national charity Gingerbread helps single parent families through its website, forum, local groups, and more.

Sunday 21 March is also Single Parents’ Day in the UK, so please do take the time to mark it on social media if your organisation serves this community.